Saws, hammers….and prayers and ministry

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

If you were tasked with writing a history of your church, what would you include?

Several decades ago I assisted an association of churches in a radio series which presented the history of each if its congregations. Members of the church wrote the five or ten minute scripts and a representative of the congregation came to the studio to do the recording.

To add a bit of interest, I suggested that they utilize sound effects to illustrate their historical stories.

To my surprise the most requested sound was hammers and saws. Only one church asked for something different—they had established an orphanage for children left as orphans during a smallpox outbreak back in the 1850s.

What I discovered in recording that series was that most churches identify their accomplishments and activities by the construction of facilities and a “parade of pastors.”

So it goes. Recently on a trip I picked up a small pamphlet outlining the history of an historic church in a Mississippi River town. I was not surprised to find that it, too, is a history of building construction, remodeling, the selling and buying of property along with a list of pastors who served there since 1807.

Somehow we can’t see the forest for the trees, or the movement of the Lord for the business of fellow humans.

How I would love to read a church history that related stories of those whose lives were changed when they committed themselves to Jesus Christ.

I would like to know about ministries that changed the course of the community or led people to crucial outreach in the church.

How nice it would be to hear about people from the youth group or the church as a whole who went into full-time Christian service. (From the youth group in the church that I grew up, three out of around fifteen young people were called to serve—one as a seminary professor, one in pastoral and denominational ministries, and one as a pastor and missionary)

Wouldn’t it be great to know about people who taught Sunday school into their nineties? Of others who relocated overseas as second or third career missionaries in their sixties or seventies; to hear about pastors who went beyond their normal call to write books or establish a homeless outreach or mentor seminary students?

How exciting it would be to read about unique ministries such as the founding of a children’s home, the establishment of housing for the elderly, a resettlement program for refugees, the instituting of a scholarship for those going to seminary or Bible college, a counseling program that healed wounded souls, an outreach to mentor pastors new to their calling—the list could go on and on.

If you or your church are considering writing a history, be creative, be motivating, be faithful in telling not your story or the organization’s story, but the story of what God has done through the congregation. To Him will be the glory.

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button along the side of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these articles, please let me know at that same email address.

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Three Well-intentioned But Misleading Statements That Can Lead Us Astray

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

There are times that Christians make sweeping, misleading statements with good will but potentially disastrous results. These have an element of truth, but when examined are found to be, at least, deceptive and at worst, harmful.

They are akin to saying “all food is good for you.” While one could argue that all food, from meat to vegetables, starches to fruits, sweets to vitamins contribute to nourishment and filling the stomach. But, anyone who has read a recent newspaper or talked with their doctor will know that some foods in excess are harmful, others have little or no nourishment, and some can be outright dangerous.

Let’s look at three such statements that I have heard over the years.

“Everything we do is evangelism.”

“Everything we do at church on Sunday morning is worship.”

“We are all missionaries.”

First, “Everything we do is evangelism.”

Would that this could be true.

Across most of our communities and around the world people are serving the Lord through countless ministries that point to God’s love and compassion.

Food pantries, clothes closets, rehabilitation centers, feeding programs, all are expressions of Christian concern and can be, but not necessarily are, opportunities for evangelism.

There are scriptural references that direct us to share the Gospel and indicate the methodology that we should use:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Matthew 28: 19-20

In this way, I have aspired to preach the gospel where Christ was not known…. Romans 15:20

My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to God’s grace.  Acts 20:24

Note the key words in these texts; teaching, preaching, testifying. All indicate a verbal, spoken, communicated sharing of the Gospel of God’s grace.

Each of them involves, yes commands, the spoken Word, the teaching, preaching and telling of the Gospel story of forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation through Jesus Christ.

To do good works in Christ’s name is laudable and required of each of us. To do them and fail to share in whose name we do it and what Jesus’ purpose was is to fail to evangelize.

To proclaim that everything we do is evangelism can allow us to omit the telling of the Good News.

Second, “Everything we do at church on Sunday morning is worship.”

Here the argument can get a little obscure. In our modern age, what is and isn’t worship has become a bit confused.

Let it be understood, first, that worship is more, much more than just the music. With the development of “worship teams” which lead a congregation in musical praise, the concept has arisen and is often spoken that when the music is over, the worship has finished and we move on to other things.

The reality is that a worship experience involves various elements, and each and every event during that time period should be focused on God. Worship is the time we set aside to praise Him, to pray to Him, to hear His word, and to commit ourselves to Him.

Worship moves from one “activity” (music, scripture reading, prayer, the proclamation of the Word) to another, until it reaches its climax in the confession of faith, the sharing in communion, and the baptism of new believers.

But, too often, we unintentionally interrupt that flow with announcements, promotion of groups and events and the like which divert us from the Lord and re-focus our attention on ourselves or our institution.

Those elements which distract from our focus on God and His activity in our life, His word, commitment to Him are not worship. They are entertainment, institutional promotion, whatever, but are not worship directed toward glorifying Almighty God.

Third, “We are all missionaries.” 

At first glance, that’s a laudable concept. Certainly, we all can be reaching out, using daily opportunities to proclaim the Gospel.

But, when that was said in church recently, one could almost hear an audible sigh of relief. If we all are missionaries, the nagging tug to “interrupt our lives” by becoming a full-time international or national missionary disappears.  Gone is the necessity of learning a new language, immersing in another culture, serving the Lord on a full-time basis. 

(“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

One who studies the theory of missions will run across dozens of definitions of a missionary. The characterization that speaks loudest to me and reminds us of our global responsibility to share the Gospel says “A missionary is someone who crosses a border to share the Gospel.”

Be that a political border or a cultural line or a language divide, that definition implies that a missionary in the purest sense of the word is someone who is called and responds by physically going somewhere, be that locally or internationally, to verbally witness to God’s saving activity in Jesus Christ.

If we are all missionaries, then each of us must cross a boundary, be it between neighborhoods in our own community, a state line or an international boundary and each of us must be sharing the Gospel, verbally, with others who do not know the Lord.

“Everything we do is evangelism,” “Everything we do at church on Sunday morning is worship,” “We are all missionaries,” – there may be an element of truth in each of these statements.

But, let us not become distracted or complacent when we hear them. Evangelism, worship, mission work, are not that simplistic.

Indeed, each is deep and fulfilling when lived out in complete, holistic service to the Lord.

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button along the side of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these articles, please let me know at that same email address.

Tragedy in Indonesian quake and tsunami brings back memories of hope in Venezuela

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

As I have been reading about the terrible disaster following the September earthquake that destroyed vast portions of the Indonesian coastline along the Central Sulawesi province, I am reminded of a similar disaster which occurred along the Venezuelan coast in 1999. That mudslide killed at least 50,000 and left uncounted thousands more buried.

Even in the face of such an overwhelming disaster, I remember the signs of hope that Christian rescuers and relief workers experienced eighteen months after the Venezuelan tragedy.

More recently, Reuters reports that “the 7.5 magnitude quake on Sept. 28 (2018) brought down shopping malls, hotels and other buildings in the city of Palu, while tsunami waves smashed into its beachfront. But perhaps more deadly was soil liquefaction which obliterated several Palu neighborhoods.

No one knows how many people are missing but the toll is in the thousands, and rescuers say that the number could be in the multiple thousands.

The official death toll had risen to 1,763 by October 7 but bodies were still being recovered.

The state disaster agency said liquefaction destroyed 1,700 houses in one neighborhood alone with hundreds of people buried in the mud. (Soil liquefaction occurs when a saturated or partially saturated soil substantially loses strength and stiffness in response to an applied stress such as shaking during an earthquake or other sudden change in stress condition, in which material that is ordinarily a solid behaves like a liquid. – Wikipedia)

Given the impossibility of removing so much soil, officials in Indonesia said debris would be cleared and areas hit by liquefaction would be turned into parks and sports venues.

Jono Oge in Indonesia was hit hard by liquefaction with dozens of teenagers at a nearby church and Bible camp killed. Many of them lie buried in the mud.

That same impossibility of recovering so many buried bodies faced the Venezuelan workers.

The December, 1999 flood and mudslide disaster in Venezuela may have left up to 50,000 dead.  Catastrophic storms brought massive destruction to hillside squatter communities in the capital Caracas and along the coast.

I visited the disaster site along the Caribbean coast a year and a half after the mudslide. Here are excerpts from my report: Today, neighborhoods still look like scenes from a war zone or earthquake devastation in India, with the exception that most buildings are buried or filled up through the second floor with rocks and mud, their families still entombed inside.

Nobody really knows how many died in the disaster, and few are willing to guess.

“The government says 30,000, I think 50,000, but residents along the coast say more than 100,000,” says Darrell Horn, a Southern Baptist missionary who has worked in disaster relief for the past year and a half.

“I really don’t know how many died,” says Rebecca Domingues who has led her church and other congregations in relief work along the coast. “Just last week they dug out a house and found a whole family, including a baby, buried in there.”

“The problem is that many families have been separated by the government relocation efforts while other families don’t know whether their relatives are living in another city or are dead,” says Berenice Cabrera, director for disaster relief for the Evangelical Council of Venezuela (CEV). “We are working with refugees as far away as Maracaibo (350 miles) who haven’t seen or talked with their families since the floods,” she adds.

There are reminders of the disaster wherever one goes along the coast. Standing on the waterfront amid piles of dirt and rocks, Berenice says that the water line is a block or more away from where it was before the disaster. The sweep of water and mud dumped tons of dirt into the ocean and rescue workers added to the fill as they removed the debris.

“This is a campo santo (a holy ground) declared by the government,” she says. “It’s called that because there are bodies under here that have never been recovered.”

A little while later, as she visits an entire community that was swept out to sea when the river shifted into a new course and washed everyone away, she repeats, “this is campo santo, there are bodies buried under where we are walking.”

The disaster did more than what might be immediately evident. “It not only broke up families, but destroyed social roots and traditions,” reflects Berenice. “Some members of families were loaded onto helicopters or the backs of trucks and taken to settlements across the country. Communities were broken apart. Today, a year and a half later, many families are still separated.”

Missionary Horn knows one mother who waited over seven months to learn that her two teen-age daughters were still alive in another city.

Despite the overwhelming disaster and sobering acceptance of so many disappeared who would never be uncovered, I discovered a moving moment of hope amid the disaster.

“Look, the trees are starting to come back!” Rebecca Domingues points to some shoots pushing up through unbelievable piles of mud and rocks.  

Those leaves demonstrate the hope that is returning to Venezuela’s scarred coastline a year and a half after devastating floods and landslides buried houses and families and swept away entire communities.”

Photos by Kenneth D. MacHarg

(The original articles I wrote about the Venezuelan disaster can be found here:

http://www.missionaryjournalist.net/images/Venezuela-_Venezuelan_Disaster_Unites_Evangelical_Community.pdf

https://www.christianheadlines.com/news/christians-continue-vital-ministry-18-months-after-venezuelan-disaster-525850.html

http://019329f.netsolhost.com/images/Venezuela-_Venezuelan_churches_respond_to_flood_disaster.pdf

http://www.missionaryjournalist.net/images/Venezuela-_Relief_and_Answers.pdf

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/march6/19.27.html

http://www.missionaryjournalist.net/images/Venezuela-_Baptist_missionaries_respond_to_venezuelan_disaster.pdf

 

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button along the side of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these articles, please let me know at that same email address.

Interrupted by God? Interrupted by God!

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.” ― Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

What do you want to be when you grow up? You know that question, you were asked it when you were a child or teenager and you may have asked if of your own children.

But, there comes a point in life where we no longer want to deal with such questions. For one, we may have already decided. Or, perhaps we think we have.

Or, maybe, we have made that decision several times and still find ourselves drifting with no definitive response and are too embarrassed to admit it.

Or, we think we are too old to deal with it—we are at or almost at retirement age and it is no longer relevant. Go away, don’t ask. Don’t interrupt. Just let me finish off and get on with whatever.

No matter your place on the time line of life, those words about allowing God to interrupt our life can come as a shock, a disappointment, an annoyance, or, they can be a breath of fresh air, a hope of significance, a promise of something more fulfilling. A promise to fit ourselves into God’s will for us (rather than trying to persuade God to fit into our own will).

The Lord comes and interrupts us at the most unexpected times.

  • It may be in the midst of completing our education.
  • It may be in the middle of establishing our careers or business
  • It may be in the middle of raising our children, or paying off our mortgage.
  • It may be as we are enjoying the empty nest and grandchildren.
  • Or it may come to us in retirement.

Whenever, we must be open to having our lives interrupted by our Lord as he calls us to serve Him in some capacity.

That call can come to any one of us at any time, from childhood to our senior years.

And, no, it is not just for pastors or Bible teachers or doctors. Yes, it is for them, but it is also for

  • Engineers
  • House parents
  • Secretaries
  • Hairdressers
  • Carpenters
  • Nurses
  • Teachers
  • Writers
  • Photographers
  • Business people
  • Executives
  • Plumbers
  • Telephone repair people
  • Car mechanics
  • Librarians

You name it; there are openings in the Lord’s kingdom service for each of these and more.

Each of those I have named, we have seen at work on the mission field.

And, it comes at any age. In his captivating book, Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper speaks about retirement by re-telling two stories:

Story 1: “In April 2000, Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards were killed in Cameroon, West Africa. Ruby was over eighty. Single all her life, she poured it out for one great thing: to make Jesus Christ known among the unreached, the poor, and the sick. Laura was a widow, a medical doctor, pushing eighty years old, and serving at Ruby’s side in Cameroon. The brakes failed, the car went over a cliff, and they were both killed instantly.” 1

Story 2: “[Now] Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest, which tells about a couple who ‘took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.’”

The question is then posed, Which story is more tragic? Was it a tragedy that Ruby and Laura were killed at age 80 in a car accident? Or was it a tragedy that this other couple spent their lives boating, playing softball, and collecting shells? From the biblical perspective, the second story is tragic and the first story is glorious. Mark 8:35 is indicative of this, “… whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (ESV)

Wherever you are in your life’s span, God is knocking at your door, inviting you, yes you,  to follow Him.

Are you willing to allow yourself to be “interrupted by God?”

   

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button along the side of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these articles, please let me know at that same email address.

Picking Cherries or Cherry-Picking ?

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

One of the many pleasures of living in Kyrgyzstan, as we did for portions of three years, was to pick cherries each spring.

First came the sour, pie cherries which we gladly picked to make cherry pie, cobbler, jam or a host of other goodies. Some friends had one of those trees in their yard and couldn’t use all of the fruit. So we spent several cool mornings picking away and adding to our supply.

About the time that the sour cherry trees completed their season, the trees bearing sweet cherries put forth their own fruit. Not only did we pick large quantities of those but, when we walked the tree-shaded streets of Bishkek, we often found cherry tree branches hanging over a fence or a wall. As we passed by, we, as well as many others, grabbed a handful to eat as we headed for our destination.

While picking cherries is a wonderful experience, I’m reminded that cherry-picking is something quite different than obtaining good fruit.

Dictionary.com defines the practice of cherry-picking as to “choose or take the best or most profitable of (a number of things), especially for one’s own benefit or gain.”

The cherry-picking that is most disturbing to me is that which involves looking for a proof-text biblical verse that supports one’s own pet belief or a point they are trying to make in a sermon or article. I often describe this process as a sermon in search of a text.

In a presentation I heard some time ago, the speaker was doing just that—presenting an inspirational message that, rather than use a biblical passage and interpreting its truth for the listener, snatched three short phrases from various places in the Bible to “prove” or illustrate his points.

In so doing, the speaker distorted the message of the biblical passage and missed the more complete teaching offered. As a result, listeners were short-changed by not allowing the text itself to reveal the complete message of the Gospel.

This is the text that the speaker used (Romans 3:23): “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Now, here is the complete section from Romans 3: 21-26 in which that quote appears:

 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

The sharp reader will notice that the text selected was an extracted phrase from a longer sentence and paragraph. In addition, on the overhead screen where the phrase was shown, the first word, all, was capitalized as if it was the initial word of the sentence, which it isn’t in the text. In addition, the punctuation was changed from a comma at the end of the phrase to a period—leaving the listener to assume that the thought was complete.

It wasn’t.

What was missed? Plenty, but particularly in just that sentence:

  1. The teaching applies everyone, both Jews and Gentiles.
  2. The passage demonstrates that all who sin and fall short are justified by God’s grace
  3. And, it shows that God’s grace is given through redemption in Jesus Christ.

That, my friends, is the proclamation of the Gospel, the Good News, the understanding that in the face of universal sin, God’s forgiveness and grace come through Jesus Christ.

No wonder I was so frustrated that day. A grand opportunity to actually proclaim the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ was missed by a cherry-picked, incomplete quote, a changed punctuation mark, and the omission of the Gospel proclamation.

It’s a good reminder that while I will continue to pick cherries, I will always stay away from cherry-picking scripture to serve my own purpose and instead will allow God’s complete word to be proclaimed.

Unless otherwise noted, scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button along the side of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these articles, please let me know at that same email address.

One Car to love—the saga continues!

(Here is an article I wrote in 2004 when we were living in Costa Rica. It’s light and perhaps will bring a chuckle to your day. –Ken

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

When last we joined missionaries Ken and Polly MacHarg, they were rejoicing that their “new” car was again on the road running.

You will remember that just two days after they bought their 1988 Trooper, it broke down, stalling five times in one day, once right in front of the U.S. Embassy.

A tow from a friend and three days in repair found them with new injectors and who knows what else. But, at least it was running.

We join them now as they are on their way to their teaching ministries at UNELA—The Evangelical University of the Americas.

“That sure was a good trip, wasn’t it Polly,” Ken comments

“Yes, seeing the active Arenal volcano and all of the beautiful mountain scenery was really nice,” Polly agreed.

“But that trip around Lake Arenal was something else—what a terrible bumpy road with all of those ruts, rocks and streams to cross,” Ken said. “What was that? It sounds like something fell off the back of the car.”

“Yes,” Polly said. “Maybe you had better check it.”

Ken eases the lumbering vehicle over to the curb right across from the Latin American regional headquarters of Habitat for Humanity. Stepping out, he surveys the situation and returned to the car.

“You had better get out. You’re not going to believe this, but the gas tank fell off of the car and there is gasoline spilling out onto the street!”

It took only an hour and a half for the tow truck to arrive and haul the car back to the mechanic.

Why not replace the fuel pump while we are here, Ken figures. When they did the original work they said it would need to be replaced eventually.

Four days later, Ken and Polly are back on the road—at least for a while. Two days later Ken notes that the brakes are feeling soft and not grabbing as they should.

“Hm…most of the time this thing won’t go, but now I’m afraid it may not stop!” he muses as he takes the car, this time under its own volition, back to the garage.

Now, while Troopers are fairly common in Costa Rica, it seems that, after the brakes are totally dismantled, that the mechanic can’t find the parts he needs. “I’ll probably have them tomorrow (mañana) promises the mechanic.

Definition (U.S.): Tomorrow—tomorrow.
Definition (Costa Rica): Tomorrow (mañana)—not today.

Four days later Ken again leaves the mechanic as the proud owner of a totally new brake system.

We join Ken and Polly again a few days later. It’s a Saturday afternoon and Polly has stopped at Yamuni Department Store to buy a few things.

Ring

“Hello?”

“Hi, it’s me. I’m at Yamuni and the car won’t start.”

“Oh, Ok, I’ll be right there.”

Sure enough, thirty minutes later Ken observes for himself that the car, indeed, won’t start. Now, it’s late Saturday afternoon and all of the mechanics are closed for the weekend.

But, God provides. It turns out that one of the warehouse men at Yamuni just happens to be a mechanic and just happens to have his tools with him. Of course, it has started to rain, so a few folks in the parking lot are rounded up to push the car under shelter where, 30 minutes later, the mechanic has fixed the bad battery connection, and they are again on their way.

For now.

Let’s see, that was Saturday. The next Thursday, Ken is at the Escazú Christian Fellowship’s Men’s breakfast that he leads. Coming out of the restaurant, Ken finds that, once again, the car won’t start.

“Pour some coke on the connection, it will clean up all of that corrosion,” advises a fellow gringo who has stopped at Bagelmen’s to pick up his breakfast. “If that doesn’t work, I have jumper cables.”

Coke? “Let’s see, diet or regular…I suppose it doesn’t matter,” Ken muses as he pours the soft-drink on the connection. Presto—the corrosion immediately disappears. “I wonder what it does to your stomach?” he thinks, but quickly dismisses the thought.

One jump later, Ken is at a new mechanic from which, thirty minutes later, he drives out as the proud owner of a new Rocket brand car battery.

Now begins several weeks of tranquility and smooth running. Ken and Polly and Polly’s ESL intern drive a horrendous mountain road to the beach and return to San José without incident.

(They can’t tell you what the mileage on that trip was. When they bought the car the odometer said 84,000 miles. Today, three months later, it still says 84,000 miles. Perhaps that ought to be fixed sometime!)

All was going well…until Wednesday.

We join Ken and Polly as they leave their house headed for their evening Bible Study. It has been an extremely rainy day, downpours all afternoon—after all, this is rainy season in Costa Rica.

“Hmmm, Ken thinks. I can’t get the key into the lock. Polly, it looks like something happened to this lock—maybe somebody tried to get in. Can you open the door from your side?”

“Sure, give me a minute.”

A minute later, Ken and Polly see the reason for the lock problem. They are no longer the proud owners of a car radio. It seems that during the rain storm when everybody was inside, someone manipulated the lock and stole the car radio.

“I never keep a radio in my car,” explains Don Franklin of UNELA the next day. “If I do, someone will either break the window or damage the lock to get in and steal it. If I want a radio, I carry one with me.”

“At least the car is still running, but they stole the radio,” Ken tells the Bible study that night.

“I wish they had stolen the whole car,” Polly says.

“Me to.”

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button at the top of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these announcements, please let me know at that same email address.

Too flip or just right?

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

The first time I heard our friend pray, I was surprised, and perhaps a little shocked.

I had always begun my prayers by addressing God as “Our Father”, or “Almighty God” or some such phrase that described Him as all-powerful, almighty, all-sovereign.

But our friend began her prayers simply with “Father Dear.”

Father Dear? That’s different, isn’t it? For me, at first hearing, it was a little, well, too personal, too flip, too casual, too informal.

Father Dear. It certainly makes you think.

Eventually I came to realize that perhaps what we are missing in our prayers is that level of personal contact, of familiarity with our sovereign, all-powerful, all-knowing God who came to live among us in human form, knowing our desires and our frustrations, our faith and our doubt, our accomplishments and our sin.

And, I eventually realized that what we need is not only an affirmation of God’s power and sovereignty, but also an affirmation of his love, his care, his concern, his compassion, his forgiveness and his grace.

Perhaps, along with recognizing God’s might, we need to also recognize his tender care.

When we pray, we encounter an almighty God. An almighty God who is compassionate and forgiving and loving…and dear.

I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today
I know that He is living, whatever men may say
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer
And just the time I need Him He’s always near

In all the world around me I see His loving care
And though my heart grows weary I never will despair
I know that He is leading, through all the stormy blast
The day of His appearing will come at last

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian. Lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ, the King
The Hope of all who seek Him, the Help of all who find
None other is so loving, so good and kind

He lives He lives,  Christ Jesus lives today
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life’s narrow way
He lives He lives , Salvation to impart
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart

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